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Shelter Dog Training Programs Increase Adoptability While Decreasing Relinquishment

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I’m so excited! Today is the day we begin the brand new behavior and training program at our local non-profit dog rescue Canine Adoption and Rescue League. By teaching the dogs good manners (aka: dog obedience), like greeting politely, walking nicely on leash, and being quiet in their kennel, dogs learn many of the basic behaviors dog owners want when he or she is adopted out.

Having a structured program helps with continuity and how it relates to the learning of behaviors. This system also allows for maintaining organization, and keeping realistic expectations – for both humans and the dogs.

As a certified professional dog trainer that has done well over 80% of her schooling at animal shelters in multiple locations, I see that one main focus with shelter animals is that he or she not only receive the basic care such as water, food, medical care and a comfortable bed, but some sort of “education” to help better his or her chance of finding a forever home.

It’s all too often that our domestic dogs wind up in shelter because of “behavior problems.” Many common “problems” are just normal doggy behaviors that humans don’t know how to deal with. So instead of taking the steps to find out more, they opt to get rid of the source of the problem, and instead rely on others to clean up their unfortunate decision.

This isn’t true of all cases of course, but it sure seems to be the majority – at least as far as what I’ve witnessed and encountered firsthand.

Our particular program is divided into three levels, all building upon each other. This makes it easier on both the handler as well as the dogs. The following is a brief overview of how our levels are divided up:

  • Level 1, New dog volunteer orientation: Learning all about C.A.R.L, past and present. Volunteer responsibilities, expectations, and options for volunteering. Training consists of learning about dog behavior, creating pleasant associations for the dogs, enrichment and how to provide it. The dogs learn to associate strangers approaching his or her kennel with something exciting, versus just being stared at, which can increase stress levels.
  • Level 2, Learning the Basics: This is where the “dog obedience” comes into play. Teaching sit, “watch me”, down and greeting nicely and having his or her walking harness put on are some of the basics. We also have the volunteers teach impulse control behaviors such as waiting at doors before going in and out of his or her kennel, going outside, or into the training area, and how to take treats gently.
  • Level 3 is where walking in the great outdoors begins. We prefer to have this at level three because this is one of the more involved and challenging behaviors, for both the handlers and the dogs. Teaching dogs to walk nicely on a loose leash (aka: heel) takes consistency in the training steps, good timing and patience.

Our new dog volunteer orientation is scheduled for the 3rd Saturday of each month, so if you can’t make today’s session please consider attending another Saturday afternoon. The dogs, staff and volunteers will thank you for it!

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